Rebranded Grey Italy is ready for the future Rebranded Grey Italy is ready for the future
GreyUnited to become Grey Italy, with Marta Di Girolamo taking on leadership
October 16, 2017
GreyUnited has announced a rebrand, becoming Grey Italy and at the same time promoting Marta Di Girolamo to the position of CEO. Marta, who has been with the company for six years, says: "I have great respect for what the agency created and raised by Pino Rozzi and Roberto Battaglia has done it its 10 years of life. I am dedicated to keeping our brand up to what it was, formerly as 1861united, and today as part of the extraordinary Grey network. I am grateful to Pino, Roberto, Grey Europe and WPP Italy for making this important transition in my career possible. Grey Italy is ready for the future."
Pino Rozzi will assume the role of Executive Chairman. Pino, who founded 1861united which merged with Grey in 2014, comments: "I hold Marta in the deepest professional estimation, proven by her daily dedication, her strategic vision and her ability to move in a multidisciplinary context, always with a collaborative spirit. And I am absolutely certain she will bring the agency and its clients to a higher level. I will be at her side with all my experience, and all my energy".
To both celebrate Grey's first 100 years, and look forward to the future of Grey Italy, the office threw a party attended by Global leaders Michael Houston (CEO) and James Heekin (Chairman). Whilst they were in town they were interviewed by the Corriere Della Sera:
Little Black Book: How Grey Italy is Preparing for the Next Century
CEO Marta di Girolamo explains the philosophy at the heart of her recently rebranded agency in the year of Grey's centenary
100 years since Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt named their new advertising agency Grey after the colour of the paint on their freshly-decorated walls, the network now spans 96 countries, including Italy.
Until October the network’s Italian office was called GreyUnited - representing the inclusion of 1861united, the agency that joined the Group in 2014 - but now they are simply trading as Grey Italy. The rebrand coincided with the promotion of Marta di Girolamo, who’s been at the agency for six years.
On dropping ‘United’, Marta says: “After almost four years we’re leaving that part but without really losing any of it: all that was done in the past under the name of 1861united remains as a major chapter of the history of advertising in Italy and will be definitely more persistent than the name itself.”
The name change represents more than mere simplification - Marta has been keen to stress the realignment as an integral part of Grey as a global family. “Today we are a future-facing agency with a clear distinction in the Italian market: calling ourselves just Grey further reinforces the sense of belonging to a network which we are so proud to be part of,” she says.
With this repositioning it seems a natural time for the agency to examine the environment it now sits in. “We’re living in a complex scenario with competition coming from anywhere - from branding agencies to strategic consultancy firms,” says Marta. “and where every communication project has to fight really hard to gain a share of the audience attention in such a content-saturated landscape. It’s probably the most challenging time to become the CEO of an advertising agency, but it’s also the most exciting one: we have to re-write the rules of this job and this is a great opportunity for us as professionals, especially when you can count on a great team as I do.”
While Marta admits that TV advertising still reigns supreme in Italy, she recognises that the agency cannot rely solely on traditional forms of communication moving forward. “Investments in digital have been growing rapidly in recent years: growing into an always more digital future is our main goal,” she says, “as well as reinforcing our role of business partners more that communication partners for our clients.”
Marta is clear on the culture she wants to create at Grey Italy as it goes through a metamorphosis: “Regardless of the specific department, the talent of tomorrow will be equipped with three main qualities: creative mindset, business acumen, knowledge of technology.”
The agency recently won a pitch for the repositioning of a pioneering international brand, following an innovative approach based on collaborative work involving other agencies within the Grey network and sister companies within WPP. “This is what any future project coming from our agency should look like,” she says. “I still can’t tell [any] more about it… but stay tuned!”
International Horizons: Big Data Allows Us to Reach the Young.
Speaking to James Heekin, Executive Chairman: “Data alone is not enough, we need to know how to analyse, interpret and understand the data”
Worldwide CEO, Michael Houston, said: “The political uncertainty of recent times has affected consumer behaviour.”
It was 1917, the United States had just decided to intervene in the First World War, the President was Woodrow Wilson and two 17-year-olds, with $100 borrowed from mothers, decided to found Grey, one of the most well-known advertising agencies in the world. One hundred years later and Grey is still one of the most influential agencies in the advertising landscape, perhaps due to some recent changes in the executive management.
"But not everyone!", smiles James Heekin. "Our agency retains the pragmatism of our founders: our creative work is rooted in a continued understanding of the consumers’ world and market trends. This is reflected in our numbers; our business has grown seven years in a row, both in net sales and profits, and 2017 will be the best performing year in 100 years of the agency's history."
The revolution is advancing
In the meantime, however, the world around us is changing rapidly, with the digital revolution and artificial intelligence threatening to change the dynamics of the working world. "Big data is a great resource", says Michael Houston. It provides us with accurate data on consumer behaviour, gives us accurate insights and lowers the margin of error. This represents the evolution of market research that Grey has always used with particular skill. We are part of WPP, one of the industry's leading groups, which has invested a lot in digital: today we are one of Google's first customers. But data alone is not enough, we need to know how to analyse, interpret and understand it.”
It is no coincidence that some argue that in the near future people who have full control of digital data will have great economic power, it will create a new hierarchy based on big data. A shift that could see Google or Amazon as new competitors to those who work in advertising.
“It’s a possibility", admits Heekin, "e-commerce is growing at dizzying speeds around the globe, with Amazon in the West and Alibaba in the East creating very innovative and disruptive models. This poses a challenge to all companies that operate in a traditional way and it is possible that consumers and agencies will find themselves on the same side to defend smaller brands that will otherwise suffer from those who sell on these platforms and the growing influence that e-commerce will have on the future of the web”.
The uphill recovery
Meanwhile, the global financial crisis seems to be behind us, even if the recovery does not seem to speed up.
"The indicators tell us that the recovery is constant," concludes Houston, "but growth is different in many areas. Everything works very slowly because we live in times of political uncertainty which affects consumer behaviour. Another three years of sluggish growth await us because it is influenced by very delicate external factors”.
It is a similar situation in Italy, but here the political landscape is not particularly turbulent.
“You are an interesting country," says Heekin. "You have a very significant population of social and mobile consumers and yet your companies continue to invest almost all of their advertising budget in TV, which is losing viewers. Why is that?”
Perhaps because the heads of Italian companies are slower to adopt new media and understand modern consumers. Perhaps one has to wait for a generation change in the Italian ‘ruling class’.
“A good response”, Grey’s president smiles. “So, it is up to us to intercept the new generation of investors and leaders, and to understand what the modern Italian consumer wants. We’re already working on it”.
This article has been edited and translated from the Italian original in the Corriere della Sera 09.10.2017